The end is nigh for Apple’s proprietary Lightning cable. Last year, the European Union proposed that all phones should adopt USB-C — the standard used by almost all Android handsets nowadays. Now it’s officially law, with companies having until December 28, 2024 to adopt the little oval charging port for almost everything.
The law doesn’t just cover smartphones, but tablets, portable game consoles, headphones and other small electronics. Essentially anything with a battery that you could comfortably pop in a bag for a long-haul flight — except things that charge wirelessly, like smartwatches.
Though it’s a good thing in our losing battle against e-waste and being able to find a damned charger when you need one, frankly, the law’s introduction overstates the problem a bit. This isn’t like the 90s when every electronic device had its own bespoke charger.
Aside from cheap Android handsets that still use microUSB and iPhones with their Lightning ports, pretty much all portable tech charges via USB-C — including a whole bunch of Apple-branded things like (newer) iPads and MacBooks.
While nothing is technically stopping Apple from making a USB-C iPhone for the 27 countries of the European Union and a Lightning cable version for everywhere else out of pettiness… it won’t. Having to make drastically different iPhones for different regions is just unnecessary busywork for the sake of it, and Apple didn’t get rich by adding more barriers to mass production.
Indeed, Apple has already signalled a reluctant acceptance of the change of law, despite what it means for the lucrative cottage industry of third-party licenced Lightning products. “Obviously, we’ll have to comply,” Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, told The Wall Street Journal back in October.
Rumour has it that Apple won’t leave things until the very last minute, and will add USB-C to the iPhone 15 next September (even if one modder with a lot of time on his hands beat the company to the punch). So you can probably look forward to a fire sale on Lightning accessories soon… if you’re happy for them to have a sense of retro chic just 15 months later, that is.